Post, 28 Apr 2007 (Castaneda).
Three leaders of the MS-13 street gang were convicted yesterday of conspiring to engage in a racketeering enterprise in which they participated in four murders and obstructed justice by threatening witnesses -- the latest in a string of victories for federal authorities in Maryland in their legal assault against the organization.
One of the defendants, Omar "Duke" Vasquez, 28, was sent by gang leaders in El Salvador to run the gang's operations in Maryland, the District and Northern Virginia, according to evidence presented by prosecutors. Vasquez had a mandate to call the shots for the various cliques that make up the gang, also known as Mara Salvatrucha, the prosecutors said.
After a six-week trial, the U.S. District Court jury deliberated for 2 1/2 days before convicting Vasquez, Henry S. "Homeboy" Zelaya, 20, and Jose "Piranha" Cruz Diaz, 27. Each faces a possible maximum sentence of life in prison.
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Vasquez, Zelaya and Cruz Diaz participated in or approved the murders of four people between April 2003 and January 2005.
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· On April 20, 2003, Zelaya fatally shot a gang rival, Noel B. Gudiel, in Langley Park, after other MS-13 gang members beat Gudiel and knocked him to the ground.
· On Nov. 22, 2003, Randy "Fenix" Calderon and Eliuth Madrigal were killed in Silver Spring. Calderon, a gang member, angered leaders by killing Madrigal inside an apartment used by one of the MS-13 members, according to court testimony. For this transgression, Calderon was fatally shot, according to government witnesses, who included a former MS-13 member who worked undercover for law enforcement for nearly two years.
· On Jan. 21, 2005, Vasquez, Cruz Diaz and other MS-13 members drove to an apartment building in Fairfax to look for rival gang members, one of whom had beaten an MS-13 member at a McDonald's in Northern Virginia, according to government witnesses. The MS-13 members shot at a group of youths sitting outside the building, killing Anthony Campos, 14. There was no evidence presented at the trial that Campos was involved in the McDonald's altercation or a member of any gang.
U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow scheduled Zelaya's sentencing for July 30, Vasquez's for Aug. 6, and Cruz Diaz's for Aug. 10.